Shushan Purim

In this case, where means when.


Among all the Jewish holidays, Purim has the singular distinction of having its date determined by whether or not a person lives in a city surrounded by a wall. The distinction is derived from a passage in the Megillah:

“But the Jews in Shushan mustered on both the 13th and 14th days and so rested on the 15th and made it a day of feasting and merrymaking. That is why village Jews who live in unwalled towns observe the 14th day of the month Adar and make it a day merrymaking and feasting and as a holiday and an occasion for sending gifts to one another.”
-Esther 9:18-9

Who celebrates what and when?

The story differentiates between Jews who lived and fought their enemies for two days within the walled, capital city of Shushan and those who lived in unwalled towns, where only one day was needed to subdue the enemy. The Rabbis determined we should make that same distinction when memorializing the event. Accordingly, if a person lives in a city that has been walled since the days of Joshua (circa 1250 B.C.E.), as Shushan was, Purim is celebrated on the fifteenth of the month of Adar, a day referred to as “Shushan Purim.”

Walled JerusalemThose who live in unwalled cities celebrate on the 14th, the day referred to as just “Purim.” The sages considered making Shushan Purim conditional on whether a city was walled from the time of Ahasuerus; but they did not wish to honor a Persian city over one in the Land of Israel, given that Israel was in ruins at the time of the Purim miracle. Joshua was chosen because, in the Book of Exodus, he is the general who begins the effort to annihilate the descendants of Haman’s ancestor, Amalek.”

In addition, the time of Joshua is related to the Israelite conquest of the Land of Israel, the memory of which reinforces Purim’s theme of Jewish victory.” For Jews who have been living in the Diaspora, the observance of Shushan Purim is not even a consideration, because we know of no cities in these countries that were walled 3,000 years ago. Anyone visiting Jersualem, though, should be prepared to celebrate a joyous Shushan Purim.”

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Paul Steinberg is a rabbi at Valley Beth Shalom in Encino, California and is the Head of the Etz Chaim Hebrew School. He previously served as the Rabbi and Director of Jewish Studies and Hebrew at Levine Academy: A Solomon Schechter School in Dallas, Texas.

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